The ongoing battle between former partners Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller took a new turn recently with the conviction of Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa) for his part in Miller’s abduction of her and Jenkins’ daughter Isabella. At almost the exact time the jury was returning its guilty verdict against Miller, Jenkins was filing a civil suit against him, Lisa and another Virginia businessman who allegedly assisted in the abduction. Read about it here (Philadelphia Daily News, 8/15/12).
Miller was charged with aiding in international kidnapping for helping Lisa Miller and Isabella leave the country in September 2009, a month after a judge indicated that he would turn custody of the girl over to Jenkins if she continued to defy a series of visitation orders.The news media continue to insist that this case is legally exceptional due to the facts that (a) Jenkins and Miller had a lesbian relationship and (b) the Mennonite community assisted in Isabella’s abduction. It’s not. Indeed, it’s a garden-variety case of international child abduction. The fact that Jenkins is a lesbian lessens her parental rights, not in the eyes of the law, but only in those of the Mennonite community. The fact that Kenneth Miller and others of his religious persuasion have assisted in plainly criminal activity is far from unique. He didn’t invent civil disobedience to laws considered to be superseded by moral/religious teachings, and Kenneth Miller and his supporters seem to accept his fate the same as those who opposed, for example, racial segregation accepted theirs.
Lisa Miller and Isabella, now 10, were last known to be in Nicaragua.
Prosecutors said that Kenneth Miller arranged for another person to drive Lisa Miller and Isabella from Virginia to Buffalo, N.Y., where they crossed into Canada and were picked up by an Ontario Mennonite who took them to the airport for a journey to Nicaragua.
After they arrived in the Central American country, the two were apparently cared for by American Mennonites who felt that they needed to protect Isabella from what they considered to be a sinful lesbian lifestyle.
Nicaragua is not a signer of the 1980 Hague convention on international child abductions, which is designed to return children illegally taken from member countries.
Of course from my point of view, there’s a huge difference between opposing patently wrong racial discrimination and opposing lesbianism which, however much the Mennonites may wish it were otherwise, is as natural as heterosexuality. And abusing a child to promote one’s religious beliefs is, to me, beyond the pale. Kenneth Miller is obviously sincere in his beliefs, but so was the Inquisition.
And when it comes to religious organizations assisting in the parental abduction of a child, that too is not new. The Catholic Worker organization in Ontario did just that in Helen Gavaghan’s kidnapping of Henry da Massa’s daughter. She was located late last year and returned to da Massa in England; Gavaghan was arrested, extradited to England and charged.
So there’s scarcely anything new about the Miller/Jenkins case except for the fact that Jenkins is smart enough to sue everyone who took part in abducting her daughter. Good for her. It’s a step Henry da Massa might want to consider. So should every other parent who’s had a child abducted with the assistance of someone with deep pockets.